Martha’s Minty Fresh!- Chocolate Mint Sandwiches! -286 eggs, 210 cups of sugar, 211 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 265 cups of flour used so far- 8 recipes to go!

July 22, 2013

Martha’s Chocolate Mint Sandwiches

André’s Chocolate Mint Sandwiches

It seems like every few weeks there’s a girl scout, or the parent of a girl scout, or an aunt, uncle, distant cousin of a girl scout hitting me up to buy cookies.  I always try to oblige when I can. One of the more popular cookies the girl scout cookie-pushers peddle is known as Thin Mints. I’m sure you’re familiar with these. They’re thin chocolate wafer cookie that’ve been dipped in chocolate.  I have a box of them in my cupboard. They’ve been there over a year. I don’t really like them. I’ve never been a fan of minty desserts. Martha, of course, included them in her book and since I have an adversity to minty cookies, I put off baking them for as long as possible. It’s really too bad, too, because this recipe is actually quite good.  Mint-flavored-chocolate butter cookie dough is rolled out very thin, then cut into discs, and baked until crisp. The filling is a simple mint-flavored vanilla concoction that is sandwiched between two wafers and then dipped in melted chocolate. Not terribly complicated, although quite time consuming. They are tasty, though. I’ve always found the Thin Mint girl scout cookies to have a bit of an artificial  aftertaste due the amount of preservatives added to maintain “freshness”.  This homemade version allows the flavors of butter, salt, and sweetness to come to the forefront with a refreshing waft of chocolate-mint in the finish- a much more satisfying experience.

Yes, I haven’t written in my blog for quite some time. At the beginning of this year I stepped back into the world of theater and after three shows back-to-back, I’m exhausted and can finally direct my attention to finishing out this insane cookie challenge.

I’m not being entirely honest. Yes, I’ve been ridiculously busy with rehearsals, performances, etc… but the fact is… I’m sad. Depressed, really. There are a lot of reasons for this depression. I’ve experiences a lot of loss this year and due to time constraints and an ever-growing tense atmosphere at work, I’ve not given myself the time needed to mourn.

I resume but not so fast I resume the skull |to shrink and waste / fading fading fading| and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labors abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard  tennis … the stones … so calm … Cunard … unfinished …

-Lucky from Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

        I’d like to tell you about my friend, Mark. I first met him in the mid-1990s at Swine Palace, a rather innovative theater company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I worked for ten years of my life. Mark was a New-Orleans-based actor from Boston who we’d cast to play Oberon/Theseus in a very lush and stylish production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mark was a staple performer in the New Orleans community, appearing regularly at the Tulane Shakespeare Festival. He was, in a word– outstanding. He was handsome in a very world-weary way with a full head of neatly cropped gray hair and blue eyes that always twinkled with a touch of mischief. His voice was precise in its elocution with a controlled gruffness reflected by an intimate history shared with a thousands cigarettes and just as many bottles of scotch. He had a slight Bostonian brogue that added a mesmerizing cadence to the wonderful stories he’d tell that charmed his devout and appreciative listeners for hours.

I loved Mark… which wasn’t always an easy task. Mark was a complicated individual with a tendency to drink in excess. One of my first experiences with Mark was after a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream when he’d invited the rather large cast and crew for dinner and drinks at a favorite local restaurant. Drinks were consumed, dinner was enjoyed, and stories were shared. The grateful cast members thanked Mark profusely and began to trickle away from the festivities. Earlier, Mark had asked me for a ride back to the actor’s housing which I gladly agreed to provide. When there were only the two of us left in the restaurant it was time for Mark to settle the bill. He looked at the tiny slip of paper and asked me to read the number to him since he had forgotten his glasses in the dressing room. The bill totaled over $500. He winced then grinned and placed his hand on my shoulder. “You know, I didn’t think those bums would actually expect me to pay for this shindig.” he said with a mischievous smirk. “Truth be told, I don’t have a red nickel to pay for any of this.”  I angrily picked up the tab with my credit card and silently seethed on the drive with Mark back to actor housing. I was to soon learn that this was Mark’s mode of operation. It was his test, an examination of sorts to see if I was genuinely a kind person, a person who could be trusted. He never put me in that situation again… well… not that exact situation.

Mark became a staple performer at Swine Palace. He would stay in the actor’s housing for months at a time while trodding our boards. Audiences loved him as did the company of his fellow performers. I worried for him, though. He was continuing to drink far too much and eat and sleep far too little. I remember attending a poker game after a show one night where Mark was absolutely soused in vodka. He sneezed and his front tooth flew out of his head. It was a capped tooth, but  a tooth nonetheless. He grabbed it from the floor, washed it off in his drink and stuck it back in his mouth without missing a beat. It continued to hang there precariously causing him to whistle a bit with every word uttered.  I expressed my concern that he should visit a dentist in the morning to have his tooth repaired before the next performance. He shrugged and continued to deal the cards and swig from the bottle of vodka. The next day, an hour before the performance, I found him sitting somberly in the green room. He looked utterly miserable and smelled of vodka and sweat. “How’s your tooth?” I asked. “Fixed!” he responded and flashed me a grimace of clenched teeth for my examination.

“Did you see a dentist?”

“No.  I took care of it myself”


“Superglue. Works like a charm.”

As the Director of Education and Outreach for Swine Palace, it was my responsibility to book school performances of Season Shows. We were currently running The Merchant of Venice with Mark playing Shylock. Mark delivered a very powerful performance in this role and students were eager to speak with him afterwards. I had arranged for Mark to visit my classroom to address a group of my high school theatre students. I picked him up that morning. On the drive in he sat in the passenger seat dead silent. Mark was not a morning person. He politely and quietly asked to stop for a cup of coffee. I obliged. He was freshly showered and still smelled of soap and cologne but he still seemed haggard. When we arrived at my classroom he sat quietly in the corner and drank his coffee while we waited for the bell to ring and students to start filling the classroom. He looked a bit unsteady. I asked him if was okay. “Top Notch!” he replied with a smirk. The bell rang, the students filed in, and class began. The students had seen Mark’s performance the previous week and were thrilled to spend an hour talking about the play and his performance. Mark stood before the group and launched in a soliloquy from another of Shakespeare’s works. He paused in the middle of his speech, glanced at the faces in the room and found one very young and pretty female student. He walked slowly up to her and said “I bet you didn’t know that soliloquy was about blow jobs.” The class was stunned silent. I began to sweat.  He then went on to explain in vivid detail the sexual innuendo of Shakespeare’s language in several plays. I imagine, in Mark’s mind he was making Shakespeare relevant to the average American teenager. In reality, though, he came across as a dirty old man who was freaking out a classroom of young minds. Me included. I ran across the hall to fetch a confused secretary. I asked her to please watch my class while I removed a guest who was not “feeling well.”  When we returned to my classroom, Mark was demonstrating the missionary position to an audience of gape-mouthed students. I applauded loudly to let him know that the “lecture” was over. The class applauded, too. Mark stood up and took a deep bow.  I escorted him to my car and quickly drove him  back to the actor’s housing letting him know how inappropriate his behavior had been. He kept saying “I’m sorry.” Later that day I checked my answering machine to find he had filled it up with “I’m sorry.” repeated over and over again.  Mark was deteriorating. Something had to be done.

The Swine Palace season had wrapped up and the actors and crew moved out of the artists’ housing and headed back to their homes. One stayed, though. I was alerted to the situation by the landlord who began charging our company a daily rate until Mark vacated the premises. In addition to my work as the director of education and outreach, I also served as the company manager and therefore it was my responsibility to see that the actor’s left the rental apartments in good condition and on time. I went over to the apartment and found Mark parked at the kitchen table with an full ashtray and an empty bottle. I explained he had to leave but he was barely coherent. I packed up his few belongings and cleaned the apartment while he passed-out on the sofa. When everything was scrubbed and his belongings packed and in my car, I collected Mark. As I began to drive him towards New Orleans, he confided that he had no home there anymore. He had let his lease go unpaid and therefore had been officially evicted and his possessions confiscated. I didn’t quite know what to do. I brought Mark to my home and set him up in my guest room until I could figure out what to do next. Mark continued to drink heavily. He looked sick. He was going to die if the drinking didn’t stop. I made inquiries at all the treatment facilities in the Greater New Orleans area. I was looking for a detox program that would assist him in transitional housing after treatment. It would also need to be done gratis, as Mark had no financial resources. I placed him on a waiting list for a bed in a detox center in the heart of New Orleans and a few days later I received a call they were ready for him. I didn’t discuss any of this with Mark as he was barely conscious due to his toxic state.  I drove him to the facility and checked him in. Only when we arrived did he realize what was going on and he wasn’t happy about it. He protested that he was just having a bad spell and didn’t need any help. I pointed out that he was homeless and would die in a matter of days if he didn’t take advantage of this opportunity at that moment.  He begrudgingly agreed

Before Mark completed his treatment, our director, BK, removed him from the transitional home to have him act in our next season. I was furious and spoke out against the director’s short-sighted and selfish decision. Mark relapsed and soon he was barely functioning.  Mark and I shared the stage that season in a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Mark played Lucky, a silent slave to a cruel master. His master bade him to think aloud and Lucky spewed out a jumble of thoughts and images. Lucky’s mind was crumbling. So was Mark’s. After the show closed, I did not see Mark for another five years.

Mark eventually did find sobriety. He completed treatment and transitional housing and then moved to a quiet corner apartment in the Bywater neighborhood just outside of the French Quarter. He worked as a cook at a local restaurant. He rolled his own cigarettes to save on cash and drank soda.   He survived Katrina. He endured his best friend, Gavin’s unexpected and untimely death. He remained strong and sober. He even began to act again. He reprised the role of Lucky in a nationally acclaimed production of Godot  performed outside on the washed-out emptiness of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. He appeared in a handful of shows at Tulane Shakespeare.

Mark passed away in January. He hung himself in that tiny apartment in the Bywater. He left no note. He was tired and ready to be done with this world. Those he left behind were saddened but not terribly surprised. He was the lead character  in his own tragedy. I felt guilty. Still do. I can’t help but wonder if things would’ve turned out differently if I’d been a better friend. I don’t know if it would’ve made much of a difference. Mark had his own way of doing things. This was his way of saying he’d had enough. I just wish we’d had a chance to say goodbye.

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4 Responses to “Martha’s Minty Fresh!- Chocolate Mint Sandwiches! -286 eggs, 210 cups of sugar, 211 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 265 cups of flour used so far- 8 recipes to go!”

  1. Jenny German Says:

    Oh Andre, I was so elated to see something from you and now I am so touched by your story about Mark. You made me feel as tho I knew him,too. Please know there are so many friends who love you and each one is fervently wishing for you to feel better. Time will help you,honestly. I hope you and your husband can go to a quiet ‘lil spot somewhere for a week or so where you have nothing to do but walk in the sand. Please see a grief counselor to help both of you. My very best wishes to you.

  2. Patricia Arnold Says:

    i can’t believe you are only 8 from the finish!!!

    Pabby Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2013 18:31:06 +0000 To:

  3. Carol Says:

    Andre, I’m so stunned by your friend Mark’s story. I hope you’ll find some release from the guilt you’re feeling…

  4. Linda Odell Says:

    It appears to me you were a very fine friend and did what was possible to do. As for missing the opportunity to say goodbye – two of my husband’s siblings, both of them dear to me, took their own lives (30 years apart), and I’ve thought a lot about that very topic. Had either of them been honest with me about their plans, would I have actually given them the chance to say goodbye, and express to them how much their lives had meant to me? I suspect not. Pretty sure I (and everyone else they were close to) would have flown into frantic suicide prevention mode, something I suspect neither wished to trigger. So they both left this world utterly alone and that’s what I feel the most sorrow about. But, good-hearted people (you being among the good-est of them) do the best they can with the knowledge they have at the time and certainly that applies to you. And certainly, Mark felt your caring.

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